Tiffany Midge

After Viewing the Holocaust Museum’s Room of Shoes
and a Gallery of Plains’ Indian Moccasins: Washington, D.C.

 

The portrait is clear;
one is art the other
evidence. One is artifact
the other atrocity.
Each is interned
behind glass,
with diagrams
and panels,
a testament to miles
walked. Both
are worn,
each a pair,
one is cobbled
one is beaded.

At my tour’s end
can I buy a key-chain shoe?
Will I be assigned
the ID card
of one of the perished
at Wounded Knee?

The moccasins
are beautiful. Seed pearls
woven intricate as lace.
We don’t mourn
the elegant doe skins,
we admire the handicraft.
We don’t ask from whose soles
do these relics come from?
We don’t look for signs of resistance,
or evidence of blood.

Nor do we wonder
if he was old
and passed in his sleep,
or if this child
traded for a stick of candy
or a pinch of dried meat.
We do not make assumptions
of original ownership at all.

Their deaths were not curated,
not part of an installation. We
don’t absorb their violent
or harrowing ends under soft
lights or dramatic shadows.

We look right
through them,
more invisible
than the sighs
of ghosts.
And then we move
on to the next
viewing,

and the next,

and the next,

to another
collector’s trophy
lying
beneath a
veil of glass.

 

“After Viewing the Holocaust Museum’s Room of Shoes and a Gallery of Plains’ Indian Moccasins: Washington, D.C.” previously appeared in Go to the Ruined Place: Contemporary Poems in Defense of Global Human Rights and New Poets of the American West.

 

Tiffany Midge is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux, and a recent poetry MFA graduate from the University of Idaho. Her previous collection of poetry Outlaws, Renegades and Saints: Diary of Mixed-up Halfbreed won the Native Writers of the Americas First Book Award for poetry and was published by Greenfield Review Press in 1996. The chapbook, Guiding the Stars to their Campfire, Driving the Salmon to their Beds was published by Gazoobi Tales in ’05. She has published poetry and prose in, Growing Up Ethnic in America, Viking/Penguin; Reinventing the Enemy’s Language, W.W. Norton; Blue Dawn, Red Earth, New Native American Storytellers, Anchor Books; Identity Lessons: Contemporary Writing about Learning to be American, Viking Penguin, as well as in poetry journals such as Shenandoah, North American Review, Poetry Northwest and most recently in The Raven Chronicles and Florida Review. She calls both Seattle and Moscow, Idaho home (among other places) and teaches part time with Northwest Indian College.


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